Rough-Cutting Irregular Shapes Out of Laminate

Suggestions for cutting odd-shaped pieces laminate to rough size. April 20, 2007

Do any of you have a trick to cutting laminate to a workable size? I've tried at least a dozen things, but nothing seems to be very effective at cutting the laminate without breaking or tearing it. Probably the easiest way I've found is to use my cordless circular saw with support under the laminate. It's still not ideal, but somewhat gets the job done. Laminate, to me, is just a major pain in the butt!

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor R:
I have had no problem using a crosscut blade on tablesaw or RAS; works well enough that I can't see looking for another way.

From the original questioner:
With a 4' x 12' piece? I use the table saw for smaller pieces, but can't manage the wiggly stuff when it's that long and wide.

From contributor S:
Hold it over your shoulder for rips - double it over as needed for cross cuts. Always worked good for me.

From contributor R:
Just cut it while it's rolled up - roll it over into the blade. I remember when I thought this was so cool! Try it; you will like it.

From the original questioner:
Let me restate my question. Cutting irregular sizes, I guess, is the problem. Cutting square, not such a big deal. I have some countertop brackets that are shaped like a small hockey stick. I'm trying to lay them out on the laminate to avoid as much waste as possible. Straight cuts won't work. Sheet is too big for the band saw - jig saw breaks it - any type of hand cutters I have breaks it - circ saw won't cut curves. What's left that will do the job?

From contributor R:
When cutting weird shapes, I use the same laminate trimmer that I trim the overhang with. I go in from the end or drill a hole and just follow the line pretty close. Have you tried the laminate trimmer and found the results lacking or just overlooked it in your search? I thought I had seen a jigsaw used before, but I know for sure the laminate trimmer will cut out puzzle shapes.

From the original questioner:
I guess the biggest problem is getting support under where you are cutting. I didn't use the trimmer because I thought it would be too much work to get support under where I was cutting, but in the end it probably would have been faster. It just seems like a hassle every time I mess with it. Thanks for your responses. I got it cut out without ruining any, but it still was frustrating.

From contributor H:
A hand held carbide tipped laminate knife is what you need. Home Depot sells them or any laminate supplier. 6.00 or so. Score a line with a straight edge or cut several times to go through. Make sure when you lay the sheet on the floor that there are no screws lying around to crack it.

From contributor L:
A laminate trimmer and a Whiteside SC32 rip bit. Lay the sheet on a waster board and freehand the pattern.

From contributor K:
Try using a flush trim bit with an oversized pilot bearing; 1/8" to 3/16" over works for me.

From contributor S:
I had to do almost the exact same thing before - cut 60 boomerang shaped pieces for existing brackets and the edgeband face. A work table is the biggest help you will have. As luck/fate would have it, a 4x8 Dow foam board was the biggest scrap on the job (makes an excellent surface to through route on). I removed one bracket for a pattern, fattened the front out with about four layers of blue tape, and used a pattern bit (bearing on top) to follow the pattern piece. I tried using hot melt to hold the pattern but it took too long to cool and was too tough to release. I then went to some double stick foam tape. It worked okay but got dirty real fast from all of the dust and I only got a few uses out of it before adding new. The system worked too good - I was not paying attention and cut too many of the same side before I realized that I had to flip the pattern and cut some for the opposite side! My pattern bit was 1/2" so whenever I could, I aligned the cuts so that the edges to be trimmed were hanging out as little as possible. Careful planning and paying attention could have reduced waste by about a third, I am guessing. I applied the two sides and trimmed them flush with the belt sander and then a file in the tight spots. It took about half of a day on a job that was budgeted for two because we didn't have to remove the top and all of the brackets and take them to the shop and do the work there and come back and reinstall everything again.

From contributor B:
I use a 1/2 router bit with a bottom bearing that is 1 3/4" in diameter. This leaves 5/8" of an inch overhang. I clamp the laminate to the counter blank, route, then glue.

From contributor L:
We've used a very light dust coat of contact and stuck the lam to a base, then CNC routed the lam oversize so we could peal it and then lam with normal contact and trim. Worked fine.

From contributor M:
I've used 18ga sheet metal power shears to good result. Been doing so for more years then I care to remember. It's fast, clean, and easy. No need to fully support the sheet, as with the trim router method. Cleanly rough shapes to within 3/16 of the cut line. Vert grade can be finicky, but it always is.